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Archive for August, 2011


Like Paris, Vienna, and other great and civilized European metropolises, café life has played an important part in the cultural history of Budapest. Around the turn of the previous century – as noted in historian John Lukacs’s book Budapest 1900 –  the grand, opulently appointed cafes of Budapest were places of society both high and low, offices to writers, seats of revolution. Those days have past, and many of the best cafes have fallen into disrepair or had their leases taken over by fast-food chains. There are, however, still a few great old cafes in Budapest, and a few of them have  been painstakingly (and, no doubt, expensively) restored.

The most recently (and splendidly) restored is the Lotz cafe in the Párizsi Nagy Áruház building on Andrássy Avenue. The building was designed by Zsigmond Sziklai, and construction was completed in 1909. The ‘Paris Department Store’  was the first modern department store in Budapest, catering to the city’s elite. It remained open during the Communist rule, though it was not known for the designer brands that modern shoppers can now find up and down Andrássy. Its full renovation took many years, but the building finally re-opened a few years back as an Alexandria book store flag-ship, and office space.

The café itself might look much the same as it did a hundred years ago, but for the odd tourist making use if the Wifi. It is one of those rare spots that is made use of by all different kinds of customer, from tourist to students and business-attired folk. No matter where you sit, the prime reason to loiter longer than you otherwise might is to gaze up at spectacular fresco on the ceiling, done by German/Hungarian painter Károly Lotz. The cafe is named in his honor. In a city where splendorous interiors abound, this one truly stands out. It is a museum piece, or a ticket to travel in time, all for the price of a cup of coffee.

PPM Film Services is a Budapest-based film company offering an inspiring and creative work atmosphere for its host of clients from around the world. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we’re charged to create, we do it with no compromise. To sign up for the PPM Hungary newsletter, have a look here.

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If ever there was a book that begged for a film adaptation it is Hungarian writer Antal Szerb’s Journey by Moonlight. It is a story brimming with paranormal occurrences, exotic locations, and  grand sweeping romance: something like Ghost were it written by Graham Greene. The narrative follows Hungarian couple Mihály and Erzsi on their honeymoon in Italy. They get separated when Mihály misses their train south. This sudden freedom instigates Mihály’s spiritual and literal journey into his past, which is haunted by the great love of his life. From decrepit mansions in Budapest to landscapes of Italy, Journey by Moonlight offers spectacular locations, plenty of narrative backbone, and what screenwriters refer to as ‘character arc’.

The book is a classic in the Hungarian canon of literature and continues to be popular with readers young and old within the country. It is only recently, however, becoming appreciated abroad. The tiny Puskin Press issued a wonderfully competent translation by Len Rix and has gone back to press several times due to the title’s popularity. Journey By Moonlight has also been critically well received. Nicholas Lezard begins his review in The Guardian with this astonishing quote: “I can’t remember the last time I did this: finished a novel, and then turned straight back to page 1 to start it over again. That is, until I read Journey by Moonlight – and I have started urging it on friends, casual acquaintances, complete strangers and, most insistently, my wife, in a way that may prove counter-productive, but that is none the less sincere. And now I urge it on you.” If you live in Budapest or anywhere in Hungary, chances are you have also had somebody urge the book on you as well.

While a 1946 adaptation of the film was made, with talk of a Hungarian remake by Mephisto director István Szabó, there has yet to be a Hollywood production. It is only a matter of time before some smart young executive picks up the book and begins mentally casting it as a film. It is hard to imagine better material for a serious drama than Journey By Moonlight.

PPM Film Services is a Budapest-based film company offering an inspiring and creative work atmosphere for its host of clients from around the world. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we’re charged to create, we do it with no compromise. To sign up for the PPM Hungary newsletter, have a look here.

About the author: Matt Ellis is an author coach and manuscript editor at Word Pill Editing. Have a look here for an affordable Manuscript Critique.

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